This one wasn't even close.
CM Punk delivered another "pipe bomb" in the final segment on Monday Night Raw -- another blend of honesty and little lines that put smiles on hardcore fans' faces. This one had a more heel-ish twist, as expected given CM Punk's character on TV for the past several months.
Then, after CM Punk got the crowd in a frenzy for several minutes, out came The Rock ... and again we saw that familiar Rock "Big Mac Formula" -- Catchphrase (bun), plot point (meat), joke (lettuce, big mac sauce). Is "formula" exclusive to "The Great One?"
No, but whenever I see Dwayne Johnson in a WWE ring, in front of a crowd that for the most part are there to see him, I expect more.
It might be hype, and it might be nostalgia, but it's been a long time since The Rock was ... well, "The Rock."
And it showed here. CM Punk came across as fresh and interesting, while The Rock was able to use the old hits, just like a successful music act, touring from city to city.
Maybe it's better this way -- after all, CM Punk is the one who will be here after WrestleMania season is over. He's the one who will still be in the trenches for WWE (sound familiar?). With more eyes watching because of The Rock's return, this is an opportunity for CM Punk to become even greater.
These were my same concerns when The Rock was feuding with John Cena (side note -- it's still odd to see John Cena give an overwhelmingly positive introduction to The Rock on Raw, despite the fact that their match at WrestleMania 28 meant everything to Cena and it was a must win). They will always be my concerns. But my concerns aren't necessarily shared with many in the WWE Universe, who are perfectly happy with what they get out of The Rock when he is seen. To each their own.
WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW FROM RAW:
The winners of each match on Raw told a big story as to know who are the ones to watch out for at least in the early part of 2013: Rhodes Scholars, Randy Orton, Wade Barrett, Antonio Cesaro, Sheamus, Big Show, CM Punk and John Cena all scored victories.
The most perplexing to hardcore fans might have been Cena's win over Dolph Ziggler -- after kicking out of several of Ziggler's finishing maneuvers, Cena pinned him cleanly in the center of the ring.
The perception here is that certainly with the start of a fresh new year, what happened in 2012 (Ziggler's TLC win) simply doesn't matter. Ziggler's Money in the Bank briefcase hasn't meant more in his career and move to the main event than at this moment. Kaitlyn also defeated Eve Torres by countout on Raw, which implies a continuation to this rivalry.
Before CM Punk and The Rock interacted, he successfully defended his WWE title against Ryback in a TLC match, due to more Shield interference -- this is just an unfortunate circumstance because due to CM Punk's injury, Ryback was left to suffer one more (this time decisive) loss on his record. Luckily, with the Royal Rumble coming, it's a perfect opportunity to bring back a lot of his steam.
As of the end of Raw, announced participants in the 2013 Rumble match are:
John Cena Randy Orton Sheamus Dolph Ziggler* Heath Slater* Drew McIntyre* Jinder Mahal*
*announced their participation on RAW
Arda Ocal is an on air personality with the Score Television Network. Follow him on Twitter @arda_ocal